The sun might already be setting on the Dark Universe. The creation of studio executives gone mad with franchise envy, the concept would’ve united Universal’s most fearsome intellectual properties—Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, et al.—in a series of films that technically began with 2014’s Dracula Untold, an origin story conveniently lampshaded by this past summer’s The Mummy. But following that Tom Cruise-led reboot’s failure at the box office, and The Bride Of Frankenstein’s disappearance from Universal’s release schedule (which would’ve been funnier if it was the proposed Invisible Man movie starring Johnny Depp), The Hollywood Reporter says the entire enterprise may have one foot in the grave.
Sources tell THR that Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who’d been hired to oversee the Dark Universe, have left the project, while Angelina Jolie—who’d been eyed for Bride Of Frankenstein—has similarly severed her ties. Despite the bleeding, Universal plans to forge ahead, with president of production Peter Cramer saying the studio is “not rushing to meet a release date” and describing the Dark Universe’s various components as “filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision,” which is definitely a statement about multiple movies that will all cleanly filter into one larger body of work, and not, say, stand-alone creature features that will bring the cinematic tradition of Universal monsters into the 21st century. (Because they already did that with 2010’s The Wolfman.)
But the most damning detail in the report involves a chunk of real estate that had been staked out for the Dark Universe. Decorated in honor of the monsters at the center of the franchise, this refurbished office building on the Universal lot “now sits mostly empty.” Universal may yet find a successor to Kurtzman and Morgan, but whoever that may be stands to inherit this ghoulish monument to playing filmmaking god, its halls haunted by the mournful wails of “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters.” Their will slowly tested by spectral taunts of “You’re no Guillermo del Toro,” perhaps they’ll finally snap and realize what they actually have on their hands are the ingredients for the “Monster Mash” cinematic universe. Here, Jason Blum or James Wan or whomever dares to take up this cursed mantle: Try this ribald spec script on for size.